Until the old Church returns: "No Tithes Sunday"

44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
—Acts: 2:44-47
By John W. Fountain
  And herein lies the problem… The House of God is out of order. The church has misplaced its priorities, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on building earthen temples rather than the temples of humankind. God has supplied all our needs according to His riches in glory, and we as members of the Body of Christ have sacrificed, laying our treasures at the altar at our local so-called houses of worship. But too often those treasures/finances are irresponsibly misplaced, misused, and disproportionately spent on things that have little utility for the daily lives of people.
The apostles in the New Testament didn’t browbeat the people to give. The people gave from their hearts, selling even their own houses, not for the erection of a temple or the apostles’ salary, but that they might help the widow, the poor, the orphan. The people and church leaders understood, even back then, that “the church” is the ecclesia, the living, breathing and moving body of believers.
Many years ago, as a sophomore at the University of Illinois in Champaign, I needed $300 to return to school that fall 1979. Mama didn’t have it. My father was dead and in his grave. So we took our need to the church folk.

“What would I do with $50 million given by God’s people? 
…I would never put it in a sinkhole, like a church building.”

I had seen them at church raise offerings and badger people into giving—for new chairs, new pulpit furniture, choir robes, for donations for chicken dinners—to the tune of hundreds and thousands of dollars. They could have raised the paltry sum I needed with a swift pass of the collection plate and I would gladly have paid them back—with interest. But they did not. They did not because, even back, then, their priorities were misplaced.
Today, as I drive by some churches, looking through my haze of sadness and disbelief, I see the saints’ sacrifice and offerings—symbolized by towering opulent cathedrals that someday shall fade away. I see that “abundance”—which might have been spent on the erection of housing for seniors and the disabled, or for transitional housing for families, or on partnerships with corporations that would bring businesses and jobs to our communities, grocery stores with fresh produce and quality food—and jobs—or any number of more responsible ventures that would more reflect a vision for God’s people and good stewardship.
I cry when I understand that God has already provided what His people need. I cry when I see that so many churches have placed the people of God in the bondage of million-dollar mortgages that now will be passed down to their children and their children’s children.
What would I do with $50 million given by God’s people? A lot. But I can tell you what I would never do. I would never put it in a sinkhole, like a church building then try and convince myself and others that this is all for the glory of God. And yet, this is exactly what happens.
Churches should exist for the people. Not the people for the church. And yet, too many churches, strapped for cash, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in monthly mortgage, can no longer afford to do what the church is called to do. Too many members are tapped out from the financial burden of carrying the church. The “storehouse” is full and yet, at the same time empty. So those in need are turned away. The poor, widow and the orphaned.
            Some ministers here recently participated in a “No Buy Black Friday” in protest of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by a white Chicago police officer who shot the black 17-year-old 16 times.
Given the neglect by the church in general of the African-American community from which it has extracted millions upon millions over time with giving relatively in return, maybe the members should protest and boycott Sunday service—at least until the church regains its prophetic zeal and commitment, even to the least of these.

And I know just what to call it: “No Tithes Sunday.”

The Relief Bus outreach, in Elizabeth, N.J., with two former school buses customized into mobile resource centers, seeks to help the poor and homeless, delivering meals and services to people on the street. Fountain visited the ministry in recent years to see it at work firsthand. (Photo: By John W. Fountain)